Can a cheesecake be vegan? This is mostly curiousness on my part though if a cheesecake can be made commercially sugar-free why can’t it be made vegan commercially?
A homemade cheesecake can definitely be vegan and, if there is market for it, so can be commercially made cheesecake. There are good baking substitutes for egg available and milk in the kitchen can be almost always substituted by some kind of vegan milk (soy, almond, coconut.. you name it).
I am not sure about the USA but I know about Tesco here in UK selling this vegan blackcurrant cheesecake. With that said, the one time I tried it I was not very impressed. You might have better luck going for a more specialist producer, such as Daiya and their Cheezecake. At this point things do get a bit pricey though.
If you really want to get a great (and potentially cheaper) vegan cheesecake your best bet would probably be to bake it yourself. This also has the added benefit of you knowing exactly what goes in it and not being restricted to what flavours the market offers. Some great recipes can be found here, here or here.
I have made so many different types of vegan cheesecake using different filling ingredients. In addition to Erica's suggestions, you can also try avocado or coconut cream as the main filling ingredient, but there are loads of combinations that work.
I usually don't cook my cheesecakes after assembly, though they are usually not strictly raw because I often use tofu (which is made from soy beans that are well cooked during the process) and/or other ingredients that have been cooked. A base that doesn't need cooking can easily be made by blending oats and/or nuts and dried fruits such as raisins or dates in a blender until crumbly and then pressing them into the serving dish.
Coconut oil and melted chocolate are great for stiffening creamy mixtures if you refrigerate your cake to set it.
Another great ingredient for thickening an overly wet mixture is coconut flour. I made a lemon cheesecake this weekend with a filling consisting of these ingredients blended until smooth:
- 100g cashews soaked overnight and rinsed well
- 100g silken tofu
- juice and zest of 2 lemons
- 50 ml maple syrup
- 3 tbsp rice syrup
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
The texture was wonderful. Coconut flour is rich and gives density without graininess. Also, of course, it doesn't rely on a temperature change to do its work.
Also, cooked banana works as an amazingly effective setting ingredient. Fry the banana until very mushy, then mix with creamy, sweet and tasty ingredients like silken tofu, sugar and cocoa powder, refrigerate, and you get a thick mousse.
My biggest success was a baked vanilla cheesecake based on a recipe from Yoshiko Takeuchi's book Cooking with Soy. If you want something similar to a traditional baked cheesecake I recommend this method. I can't believe how good it is considering it's mostly tofu!
Baked vanilla cheesecake
- 80g cashews
- 80g oats
- 1 very heaped tbsp rice syrup
- 1 tbsp oil (preferably from the cashew butter jar - otherwise use peanut, safflower or canola oil)
- ~300g firm tofu, water drained off elsewhere
- ~75ml maple syrup
- zest of 1 lemon (optional)
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 tbsp kuzu*
- 1-2 tsp vanilla seeds
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted if the weather is cold
- Put oats and cashews in a blender and grind. The mixture doesn't have to be well powdered.
- Transfer to a mixing bowl and add syrup and oil and mix until it reaches a crumbly but press-able consistency
- Press into a pie dish for baking
- Put all the filling ingredients into a blender and blend until nicely smooth
- Pour the filling over the base
- Bake in a cool oven (170 degrees C) for 30-45 minutes. The edges should be lightly golden and the middle wobbly.
- Switch off the oven and allow the cake to cool in there for at least half an hour, then remove and cool before transferring to the fridge.
* kuzu or kudzu is a type of starch extracted from kuzu vine that is a very effective thickener. It's commonly used in Japan. Arrowroot or even cornstarch might work if you can't get kuzu, but I haven't tested those.
Technically it isn't a cheesecake anymore, since cheese is not vegan. However, it's possible to make vegan imitation cheesecake: a dessert with the same flavor and consistency, but made without cheese.
There are a number of recipes out there (just Google!), and they appear to try different amounts of different bases to get that cheesecake texture:
- cashew cream (made from cashews that are first soaked, then pureed)
- vegan cream cheese
- vegan sour cream
- vegan yogurt (e.g. soy or coconut)